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A hope note

‘What you do,’ Emerson said, ‘speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.’
Some experts estimate that body ‘English’ ‘ non-verbal gestures, facial expressions, posture and tone of voice ‘ account for 70 to 90 percent of human communication.
Presidential campaigns bear witness. Those of us who watched the first presidential debate of the television era, Nixon versus Kennedy in 1960, thought Kennedy won, while those who listened on radio believed Nixon won. Kennedy had a nice suntan; Nixon looked pale and his ‘five o’clock shadow’ showed. Kennedy appeared relaxed, while Nixon looked sweaty, uneasy and unshaven.
Edmund Muskie was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in 1972. But in New Hampshire, he voiced his anger at a newspaper publisher for printing attacks on Mrs. Muskie, and he appeared to have tears running down his cheek as he spoke. The public interpreted his anger and tears as instability and vulnerability. Looking unpresidential, he lost the nomination.
In 1980, at the end of the only Reagan-Carter debate, Reagan took the initiative to walk across the stage to shake hands with Carter. To the public, that gesture seemed warm and magnanimous and hospitable, contrasted with Carter’s ‘cold.’
And who can forget Al Gore sighing into the microphone throughout his debate with George Bush in 2000. Some observers believe the condescending sigh more than any one thing handed the debate ‘ and ultimately the presidency ‘ to Bush.
Apparently, Americans value style as well as substance ‘ maybe even more than substance ‘ in their president. Appearance is terribly important in human communication, just as is the presentation of food in a restaurant.
When I’m seated before I get up to deliver a speech, my wife tells me that I have a tight, cold, rigid, grim expression on my face. I’m working on that.

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